Robert Irwin (born September 12, 1928) is an American installation artist who has explored perception and the conditional in art, often through site-specific, architectural interventions that alter the physical, sensory and temporal experience of space. He began his career as a painter in the 1950s, but in the 1960s shifted to installation work, becoming a pioneer whose work helped to define the aesthetics and conceptual issues of the West Coast Light and Space movement. His early works often employed light and veils of scrim to transform gallery and museum spaces, but since 1975, he has also incorporated landscape projects into his practice. Irwin has conceived over fifty-five site-specific projects, at institutions including the Getty Center (1992–98), Dia:Beacon (1999–2003), and the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas (2001–16).
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles mounted the first retrospective of his work in 1993; in 2008, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego presented another, spanning fifty years in his career. Irwin received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1976, a MacArthur Fellowship in 1984, and was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2007. He lives and works in San Diego, California.
Robert Irwin will be interviewed by Lawrence Weschler:
Lawrence Weschler (born 1952), a graduate of Cowell College of the University of California at Santa Cruz (1974), was for over twenty years (1981-2002) a staff writer at The New Yorker, where his work shuttled between political tragedies and cultural comedies. He is a two-time winner of the George Polk Award (for Cultural Reporting in 1988 and Magazine Reporting in 1992) and was also a recipient of Lannan Literary Award (1998).
He recently graduated to director emeritus of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, where he has been a fellow since 1991 and was director from 2001-2013, and from which base he had tried to start his own semiannual journal of writing and visual culture, Omnivore. He is also the artistic director emeritus, still actively engaged, with the Chicago Humanities Festival, and curator for New York Live Ideas, an annual body-based humanities collaboration with Bill T. Jones and his NY Live Arts. He is a contributing editor to McSweeney’s, the Threepeeny Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review; curator at large of the DVD quarterly Wholphin; (recently retired) chair of the Sundance (formerly Soros) Documentary Film Fund; and director of the Ernst Toch Society, dedicated to the promulgation of the music of his grandfather, the noted Weimar emigre composer. He recently launched “Pillow of Air,” a monthly “Amble through the worlds of the visual” column in The Believer.
Projects that relate to Robert Irwin include Lawrence's “Passions and Wonders” series, currently comprised of Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees: A Life of Contemporary Artist Robert Irwin (1982) as well as one of his more recent books, a considerably expanded edition of Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, comprising thirty years of conversations with Robert Irwin